Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Welsh flavour to All Blacks' last Eden Park test defeat

Nick Ross of New Zealand is tackled by Luke Hamilton of Wales. IRB Junior World Championship 2012. Photo / BackpagePix
Nick Ross of New Zealand is tackled by Luke Hamilton of Wales. IRB Junior World Championship 2012. Photo / BackpagePix

Wales had a part in the All Blacks last defeat at Eden Park on a drizzly Sunday afternoon in July 1994. Derek Bevan was the referee and when the electrical instructor whistled the 3pm start he matched the world record 25th appearance held by his countryman Clive Norling.

Records of a different sort were troubling the All Blacks who were aiming to halt a three-test losing streak and square their series with France. Daytime test rugby was still in vogue although that would soon change and also the brief experiment of Sunday internationals so they did not interfere with club rugby.

Les Mills was the Mayor of Auckland, Newstalk ZB began broadcasting nationwide that year and Once Were Warriors made its debut. The All Blacks were coming off two defeats - their final test against England on tour in late 1993 and the 22-8 loss to France in Christchurch to start their 1994 campaign.

Jonah Lomu made his test debut that day as the youngest All Black and first five-eighths Simon Mannix played his only test while France danced and celebrated with gusto to coincide with the 100th test for centre Philippe Sella.

A chastened home team headed for Eden Park under immense pressure. Coach Laurie Mains picked Stephen Bachop for his All Black test debut and reinstated a fit Zinzan Brooke. The team did not look secure and while the pack was flinty, Blair Larsen was not a comfortable fit on the blindside. The backs had more issues.

John Timu at fullback and Matthew Cooper at second five were not in their best positions, Stu Forster and Bachop struggled to adapt to the next level of rugby above their strong form for Otago and Lomu had his L-plates on.

Around all those uncertainties the All Blacks dominated and should have won. Penalties favoured them by some way and they dominated the lineout, scrum, ruck and maul statistics. The backs though produced a platter of messy passing, kicking and defence.

Still the All Blacks led with three minutes left when Bachop kicked deep into French territory for their captain Philippe St Andre to retrieve and start "the try from the end of the world". There was no oh, oh, oh, stutter from Keith Quinn whose television commentary surged to a pitch in concert with French fullback Jean Luc Sadourny as he dived over for the majestic victory.

Since that 1994 test the All Blacks have been the masters of Eden Park and undefeated in 35 internationals. Wales are not on that list of victims. Not yet.

- NZ Herald

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